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Gambling

Iowa State QB Charged With Being A Normal 21st-Century Sports Fan

2:40 PM EDT on August 2, 2023

Quarterback Hunter Dekkers #12 of the Iowa State Cyclones throws the ball in the second half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on September 24, 2022 in Ames, Iowa. The Baylor Bears won 31-24 over the Iowa State Cyclones.
David K Purdy/Getty Images

Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers has been named in a misdemeanor criminal complaint alleging that he used a phony DraftKings account under his mother's name to place sports bets, including on Iowa State sporting events and at least one Cyclones football game in which he did not appear, in violation of Iowa laws against underage gambling and falsifying records. Three other current and former Cyclones players face similar charges.

If true, these accusations, reported Wednesday by the Washington Post, would also put Dekkers and the other players afoul of NCAA and Iowa State rules against athletes wagering on their own school's sporting events. It's a seismic accusation ... ten years ago.

The details of the complaint argue against its seriousness. Crucially, Dekkers is alleged to have conspired with his own parents, Jami and Scott Dekkers, in the dastardly scheme to allow him to do some sports betting on his phone. This is the equivalent of prosecutors filing criminal charges against a 20-year-old because his parents bought him some beers. If anything—with sports gambling embedded as an almost passive activity in regular American life, and the various sports leagues firmly entangled with betting corporations like DraftKings—what the Dekkers are alleged to have done may be even more normal and boring than that. Next we will learn that they let him mow the neighbors' lawns without a work permit when he was only 13. This one goes all the way to the top, boys.

The law firm hired by the Dekkers family said as much in their statement Tuesday evening:

“This charge attempts to criminalize a daily fact of American life. Millions of people share online accounts of all kinds every day. … Thousands and thousands of college athletes place bets — usually very small ones — with shared accounts. That is for the schools and the NCAA to police.”

The Weinhardt Law Firm

What really stands out about this story is that it even exists, especially in a major outlet like the Post. It's most newsworthy as a preview of the thorny mess to come, as gambling grows ever more entrenched as a normal and maximally streamlined part of sports consumption, including for athletes themselves.

Dekkers's case was uncovered by Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation as part of a larger investigation of sports betting at both Iowa State and the University of Iowa. That investigation also led to a criminal complaint against former Iowa State player and now defensive end for the Denver Broncos, Eyioma Uwazurike, who similarly used the identities of others on major online betting platforms. Uwazurike bet on games involving the Broncos last year and has since been suspended indefinitely by the NFL, part of a pattern of quick punishments by the leagues for any players caught gambling, as a way to nip it in the bud early. (Decide for yourself whether "it" in this case refers to the activity itself, or the public's awareness of how prevalent it is.)

But Pandora's box never gets closed again. Sports betting and its tentacles and advertising are everywhere; only a fool would expect the players themselves—pretty much by definition sports fanatics—to resist all its charms. Back in June, the NCAA announced plans to amend its penalties for student-athletes who violate gambling policy, including increased leniency and punishments based on amounts wagered in certain cases (for the record, Dekkers wagered around $2,800 in his 366 bets). This indicates that even the NCAA understands that this tidal wave is unstoppable. The answer probably isn't to just look the other way—after all, players betting on or against their own teams is an obvious danger to whatever integrity the games possess—but it also certainly isn't in treating doofus college players and their parents as co-conspirators “engaged in a scheme” to “disguise their son's identity” because they helped him set up a DraftKings account under his mom's name, with her permission. For this they subpoenaed phone records.

While Dekkers plans to plead not guilty to tampering charges, he has informed Iowa State's coaches that he will not be part of preseason training camp. Whether he will lose any of his collegiate eligibility remains to be sorted out. Place your bets now.

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